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Weed Whacker Won't Cut It on This One

Giant 'hogweed' invader can cause blindness and blisters

TUESDAY, July 30, 2002 (HealthDayNews) -- It can grow up to 15 feet tall, send out leaves five feet across its base and can cause temporary and permanent blindness. And now Massachusetts residents are being asked to be on the lookout for it.

It's known as the giant hogweed, a large, noxious weed that is already established in New York, Pennsylvania and Washington state. It's also been seen in Maine, Michigan and Washington, D.C.

Recently, it's been spotted in the western Massachusetts town of Granville, and gardeners, hikers, farmers, landscapers and others who spend time outdoors are being urged to do their part to stop the invader.

The plant's sap can cause severe skin irritation, blisters and swelling. If it gets in your eyes, it can cause temporary or permanent blindness.

If you live in Massachusetts and you think you've spotted one, call the state agriculture department at 617-626-1700 for instructions on how to kill and dispose of the plant. Once it's established, the giant hogweed is difficult to control without using chemicals to kill it.

The plant, which is native to the Caucasus region of central Asia, was introduced to the United States as an ornamental plant but escaped captivity.

More information

You can get more information about the giant hogweed and see a photograph at the Massachusetts Department of Food and Agriculture.

SOURCE: University of Massachusetts, news release, July 25, 2002
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